I always knew I would be an artist.
I was always drawing and painting. My parents continually encouraged me. However, I didn’t set out to be a t shirt artist. During my second year in college at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, my professor told the class that we were going to a screen printer in a day or two. Holoubek Inc was looking for an intern for the summer. Holoubek designed and printed apparel for Hartley-Davidson. It would be a great chance for an aspiring artist to get a foot in the door of a local design company.
The day of the visit came. Lo and behold I was sick as a dog. How disappointing.
Instead of rolling over and giving in to what fate had dealt, I called Holoubek and informed them of my predicament. "No problem" they said, "Just let us know when you can come in". I grabbed a pad of paper, pencils and markers (yes this was before personal computers) and I went to work coming up with ideas.
The next day, feeling much better, I called them and made an appointment. Now, instead of being in the pack of students, I would get to meet with them, one on one! They were impressed with my talent and the amount of work I had done in just one day while sick in bed. They offered me an internship on the spot. My career in the t shirt industry had begun.
At Holoubek little did I know I would meet my mentor, future boss, and now long time friend, Dave Gardner. Dave was at the time and remains a legend in the screen printing industry. We soon became friends and had a mutual respect for each other’s talents and work ethics.
After graduating from MIAD, I worked the summer at Holoubek. Meanwhile Dave had moved back to Buffalo. He started his own company, Gardner Graphics and had begun a partnership with New Buffalo Shirt Factory. I continually called Dave informing him that he ‘needed to hire me’ as an artist so he could concentrate on his separations. Seeing the potential to grow his company, he eventually gave in. I soon moved from Milwaukee, WI to the Buffalo, NY area. Sorry mom.
We worked out of his basement for a year. Dave presented the idea of a new College Mascot line to Jon Weiss, owner of NBSF while I worked on Harley artwork. The mascot line turned into a huge success at a print show in Chicago. Sales people 3 deep were shoving their business cards at our booth. The industry took notice and soon NBSF was signed with Salem Sportswear to provide printed mascot apparel for pro sports. We hit the big time. Gardner Graphics moved into a beautiful historic building in Olcott, NY we called 'the Hoodoo House’. It had a history of hauntings and was even featured in more recent years on the Ghost Hunters tv show. It was a fantastic place for a design studio.
Gardner Graphics needed a lot of art fast. We brought on several new and talented artists. Now I was the mentor. We had a ton of fun dressing up for photoshoots. We would dress up ourselves and friends as pirates, vikings, saints. Whatever we needed.
Around this time I received an award from Airbrush Action Magazine for one of their Airbrush Excellence contests. As a result I was asked to write a ‘how-to’ article which appeared in the Feb 2001 issue. Most of the recognition we received back then was for our t-shirts, separating and printing, so it was nice to be recognized for my artwork.
Times change, and so do trends. After a 10 year run, the sports mascot t shirt fad was fading. As it did, Gardner Graphics merged with NBSF and our subject moved from sports to the Rock industry and Disney Theme Parks.
Much of the artwork for the rock industry and Disney was provided from outside sources, so the amount of artwork I needed to create dropped significantly. I noticed the trend and decided to head out on my own.
My wife and I started our own graphics company, Aurora Art Company. We designed and illustrated poster and program cover artwork for the Super Bowl, Big Ten, Final Four, College World Series for a client in Chicago, Action Images. This kept us busy for many years. However when this client retired, I got a bit nervous. He was 50% of Aurora Art Company’s revenue. I mentioned this to Dave Gardner in passing and he suggested I come back to NBSF, but not as an artist….as a separator. NBSF had just secured a deal to print Disney apparel. There was going to be a lot of art to separate. I took the challenge.
For 6 years I separated at NBSF. However as I have learned, times change. Gildan purchased NBSF and I decided it was time for a new direction once again. My family up and moved to Maryland where I became the head color separator for G&G Outfitters retail division and also helped with difficult seps for their Creative Services division. I was responsible for samples and approving production runs. This was short-lived. The kids were restless. The wife and I missed family. In the end, we found ourselves moving back to Western NY.
I am now back in East Aurora, NY. The winters are definitely colder than Maryland, but its great to be near family and friends. Recently I wrote, illustrated and published my first children’s book, A Sandwich for a Monkey.
Aurora Art Company is once again full speed ahead. If you are in need of high end color separations for apparel, if you need design or illustration services feel free to contact me to discuss how I can help.